Meet Jackie, Jewish “Survivor” Enthusiast of the Week!

by Samuel Milligan / January 17, 2024

The GatherDC blog strives to present a holistic portrait of the DMV’s Jewish community, sharing a wide variety of Jewish voices and perspectives. If you have a 20- or 30-something to nominate as our Jewish Person of the Week or for a Spotted in Jewish DMV feature, please email us!

Jackie and I meet up at K Street’s PAUL late one January afternoon. While the downtown traffic wends homeward, we sip hot tea and chat about Jackie’s work reporting on retail trends and the consumer experience, the joy of hosting, finding Jewish community in a brand new city, and how best to catch up on the last 45 seasons of Survivor!

Jackie in a picnic chair with a yellow beanie and white jean jacket.

Samuel: What brought you to the DMV?

Jackie: I moved here in July 2020 for a job at the Washington Post, working the overnight shift. I really wanted to become a better, faster writer. To do that, you have to be writing every day, and this allowed me to do that. 

Samuel: What did your Jewish community look like? 

Jackie: That’s how I found GatherDC: wanting more of a [Jewish] community. Moving to a city where I didn’t know a lot of people and working the night shift was very isolating. This [was] the first time in my life where I didn’t have a lot of Jewish friends; I’d gone to Jewish Day School my entire life, and a lot of my [Jewish] friends from college were also in New York. It was jarring to look around a room and realize that I’m the only Jewish person here, or to know people who’d never had a Jewish friend before. 

In the last year, though, I’ve really been able to build my [Jewish community]. When you’re around someone else who is Jewish, you just have this innate feeling of security and connection that takes a little bit more effort for me with people who aren’t Jewish. I’ve started to intentionally build relationships. I love hosting Shabbat dinners. 

Samuel: Hosting really is so gratifying. 

Jackie: It gives me so much joy to have people over and cook for them. Cooking is a form of love and an act of service, and I love making other people feel good and welcome. Shabbat dinners do that.

Jackie in a photo booth with friends.

Samuel: How has your relationship with Judaism and Jewishness changed over time, especially in this DC phase of life? 

Jackie: Jewish identity was instilled in me since I was born. It was important to my parents for me to have a Jewish education. For a while, I took [Jewish community] for granted because it was at my fingertips, even when I went to college and lived in New York. Coming to DC has made me appreciate my Jewish community even more, and I think it was the first time that I really reflected on how lucky I feel to be Jewish. There’s this sense of community and identity that not a lot of people have, [as well as] the ability to instantly, meaningfully connect with new people who are also Jewish. Realizing that I feel I’ve taken it for granted has made me more intentional now, living in DC and not having that instant community around me.

I’ve also [been] educating my friends more about Judaism. I said before that I’ve always felt very lucky [to be Jewish], and I feel like that still, but there have been moments in the last couple months where I’ve felt more scared or sad than lucky. It’s important now to expose my [non-Jewish] friends to what the culture is like, and who we are as a people, not necessarily just about, you know, a war or a government. 

Jackie holding a sign that says STRIKE STRIKE STRIKE STRIKE at the Washington Post Guild walkout. Samuel: You were a walkout captain for the Washington Post Guild recently. What was that like? 

Jackie: It entailed reaching out to Guild-eligible people in our department to see if they’d sign a pledge to walk out, and then to follow up…some peer pressure. But, it was so cool. As journalists, we never get to go to protests…or, if we do, we’re covering [them]. It was exhilarating, the vibes were top-tier, and Andy’s Pizza donated pizza – shout out to them. 

Samuel: Your work focuses a lot on retail products and consumer experiences. What’s something you’ve learned on that beat that impacted how you view the consumer world? 

Jackie: It’s definitely made me a little more pessimistic when it comes to capitalism, learning about companies’ priorities. Quality can be usurped by the desire to make more money, or demands from shareholders to make more money. During the holidays, all I’m thinking about is sales and marketing and the different schemes sellers have to convince you that you’re getting a good deal

I’m also more conscious of pricing and inflation and how that’s impacting all of us. Part of my beat is covering retail from a consumer angle – I’ve written a lot of stories that tangibly show, through retail trends, how people are struggling because of inflation. 

Samuel: A few quick ones to finish! What are you feeling proud about right now? 

Jackie: My instinct is to not think about work – as journalists, we connect our self-worth and accomplishments with work, and that’s something I’m intentionally not trying to do this year. I made a concerted effort this year to invest in friendships. I’ve had the same best girlfriends since middle and high school, but coming to DC was a weird experience, Judaism aside, just not having those friends. But I’ve built that [community] this year, and it’s helped me immensely.

It’s about being intentional and finding people you feel kinship with, then making the effort to spend time with them, to open up to them. My friends from growing up already know the context of my life; [new] people don’t. You have to be vulnerable. This last year, I’ve made close friends. Without them, I don’t think I’d feel as positively about how I am right now and my life in DC.

Jackie holding a baby and smiling.

Samuel: What’s something you’re bad at? 

Jackie: Not looking at my phone before bed. And, I [alluded to] this earlier, but I’m bad at not wrapping my self-worth around my successes at work. I put too much weight and worry on that. I know intellectually that I’m good at my job, and I have good relationships with the people around me, but there’s that thing in the back of your head that’s like “Everyone hates you and you’re horrible at your job.”

Samuel: There’s a Slack group where everyone is talking about you…

Jackie: And it’s called “Jackie sucks!”

Samuel: What is something you wish more people talked to you about? 

Jackie enthusiastically eats french onion soup. Jackie: Survivor! During the [beginning of] the pandemic, I went through phases of shows that I’d binge watch. I couldn’t start with Season 40 [Editor’s note: The season that aired February to May 2020] because that was Winners at War [Editor’s note: a tournament of returning Survivor winners]. I couldn’t watch all 40 seasons, but I’m a completionist, so I researched the top 15 or so seasons, reorganized them in chronological order, and created a syllabus for my friend [and myself]. I still have it on my phone. If you want the syllabus, hit me up. 

Samuel: You can invite any three people to Shabbat dinner. Who are they, why, and what is being served? 

Jackie: I’d invite my Bubbie, who passed away in October 2020. [I’d also invite] my sister and my cousin, Holly. Holly wants to be the third Peiser sister, and my Bubbie was just the best, sweetest, most lovely person I knew – and she’s also a great cook. I’d make her brisket, but I’d be really nervous because it’s her recipe. She used to make twice-baked potatoes, and I’d ask her to bring those. We’d also have my mom’s matzo ball soup and a tomato salad that my mom makes every Shabbat, from my dad’s side of the family. All the Jewish staples. 

Another thing to mention is that my dad is from South Africa. His parents both escaped Germany during the Holocaust. That is another option, to have all of my grandparents. They were incredibly resilient people and I’ve been thinking about them a lot. I don’t think they ever thought we’d be living in a world remotely resembling their experience.

Samuel: Last one. Finish the sentence: When Jews of the DMV gather…

Jackie: They try to plan a Shabbat dinner.

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